Mention the name Sharon Tate and here’s what happens—in less than a millisecond—I’m not exaggerating, time it—you’re not talking about Sharon Tate anymore but about Charles Manson and the details of what happened the night of her horrific murder. How and why it happened. Who was there. Where are they now? Wait, how many times was she stabbed? Seriously? She was 8 1/2 months pregnant?
Yes, seriously. Tragically. Unfathomably.
Yet it is her life that continues to impact us. Sharon Tate epitomized an era—symbolized it in her acting roles and shaped it with her fashion choices, and it’s high time her name reminds us of the gorgeous person she was throughout her tragically short 26 years.
Actor Warren Beatty once said that he’d never seen a woman who could stop traffic with her beauty as thoroughly as Sharon. In Hollywood, no less. And she was beautiful from the very beginning, at a mere 6 months old, when she won the title of Miss Tiny Tot at a beauty competition in Dallas, Texas. In her teens, she began modeling, and after her family moved to Italy for her father’s military career, Sharon started getting bit parts in films.
At 21, she was offered a contract by producer Martin Ransohoff, which included a stint on the popular TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies”, where Sharon wore a dark wig as a disguise to keep her from being discovered too early—that is, before her talent had time to develop.
Unfortunately, we never got to see that talent fully expressed, but Sharon’s ethereal beauty in “The Valley of the Dolls”, the comedy “Don’t Make Waves”, along with cult classics “The Fearless Vampire Killers” and “Eye of the Devil”, made her America’s next “it girl” for the 60s.
Part of being that it girl included marrying director Roman Polanski in 1968. Their reception at the Playboy Club in London was a major trendsetter, and video footage of the event is still online. Sharon wore an off-white, nearly-too-short mini dress that she designed herself, and with the fresh flowers woven into her messy bouffant as well as the puff sleeves on her dress, she defined the sexy yet sweetly romantic boho style of the era.
Her fashion sense was all the more powerful because she wasn’t stuffy about it, and in that way, too, personified the decade. She adored antique camisoles, wide belts, big hoop earrings, seed bead necklaces, and a white or off-white palette. She was just as comfortable wearing tailored designer clothes as she was going barefoot and sporting a beach-ready, carefree look.
Always inventive, when she wanted to go into a restaurant without wearing shoes, she would lace leather strands around her feet and tie them at the ankle—no shoes, no problem. She often used a brown eyebrow pencil as a lip liner, and plain old Vaseline was her favorite lip balm.
Simply put, then and now, Sharon inspires awe. She moves people. Today, designers such as Miu Miu, Julien Macdonald, Bianca Benitez, and Katy Rodriguez cite Sharon as a muse.
She inspired others in her personal life as well, with those that knew her best saying her kindness was legendary and that she was just as beautiful inside as she was out.
Yes, it’s well past time we revered her, not for the shocking details of the way she died, but for her lovely personality and the way she expressed the fashion and style of the 60s—a beautiful, free-spirited soul. That’s the legacy to hold onto. That’s the way we should remember Sharon Tate.
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